Jonathan Evison has called it a vision quest. Hell, he’s even said he’s taking a shot at the Great American Novel, when referring to his seventh novel, Small World, a multiple perspective, multi-generational story about a western American train about to crash. We follow the lives of several characters in 2017-2019, with chapters included from their ancestors back in the 1850s. What unites them is their western journeys and desires to make something better for themselves. Evison’s big-hearted American epic delivers contemporary characters with their pioneering pasts, and he pulls it off without preaching or pandering. While Evison has used different timelines in novels like West of Here and Legends of the North Cascades, Small World feels bigger and more in keeping with our post-pandemic future. It’s a Dickensian 19th century throwback, grappling with big American themes and ideas: multiculturalism, westward expansion and Manifest Destiny, gold rushes, technological advances, homesteading, slavery, immigration, bigotry, and regeneration through violence. It’s a timeless American story, with vivid well-rounded characters, who have a lot to tell us about the world we live in today as well as the one we’ve inherited from the past. Small World is a great ride into the complicated, dark hearts of the American story, and it reads like Evison’s best work, to date.